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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

  St Peter & St Paul Church, Shoreham     TQ 523616

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1994

LOCATION: Situated at just under 200 feet above O.D. on the chalk on the east side of the Darent river, not far above the village and bridge.

DESCRIPTION: This church, which is famous for its magnificent surviving Rood-screen and loft, was unfortunately heavily restored in 1864 by Henry Woodyer. The east end in particular, was rebuilt and many of the windows have been restored. The western tower was also completely rebuilt in c. 1775, and the west wall of the south aisle is completely obscured by cement render, and the north wall of the nave by render and stuck-on flint. Despite this, the architectural history of the church has been worked out by F C Elliston Erwood and A D Stoyel, and fully published, after the later had done some small-scale excavations (op. cit. below).

The earliest nave and chancel have been discovered, by excavation, to have occupied the site of the present nave. There was a small 16 feet square chancel, probably of early Norman date, on the site of the central part of the nave and the original nave extended west from this. Fragments of its west wall may survive in the present nave west wall.

In the late 12th century a west tower was built (at the same time as the present west tower) and the tower arch into this can still be seen at the west end of the nave. It is pointed and has simple chamfers on Reigate stone blocks (much covered now by whitewash) with rough tooling marks. No capitals only simple chamfered abaci.

The position of the Polhill chapel on the north-east suggests that the chancel was enlarged in the 13th century but no above-ground evidence survives for this.

In the early 14th century the two two-light Decorated windows (with chamfered rere-arches) were put into the north wall of the nave, and what is probably a tomb niche was built on the north-east side of the nave. It has fine carved hood-stops.

The next addition was probably the north-east or Lady Chapel (later the Polhill chapel) which has windows in the north and west walls in an early Perpendicular style. They were made in Tunbridge Wells sandstone, and have chamfered rere-arches.

In the later part of the 15th century, the whole of the south aisle and south chapel, and the fine slender six-bay arcade were constructed. There is no evidence for an earlier south aisle and chapel, but they well have existed and been demolished at this time. The east end of the chancel may also have been reconstructed at this time, but the 1864 rebuilding makes it difficult to confirm this. The east window of the south chapel, though completely restored, is perhaps in an earlier Perpendicular style.

The south doorway into the south aisle is a fine `early Tudor' affair without a hood mould and with a stoup to the east. It is probably contemporary with the south aisle, as is the fine timber porch around it. Though quite heavily restored, the porch still contains many of its original timbers, including the very large and striking monoxalic durns to the outer doorway. There are also carved barge-boards above, and traceried side lights.

The nave still has its later 15th century crown-post roof over it, while there is a simpler (and much restored) rafter collar, and soulace roof over the south aisle. The slightly higher east ends of both roofs have later boarded ceilings, and the Polhill chapel seems to have a 19th century crown-post roof.

The final major pre-Reformation feature that was put into the church is the magnificent early 16th century Rood screen and loft which runs right across the east end of the nave and south aisle in eight bays. There is late Perpendicular tracery in the screen, and the loft is supported by fanning out timbers on both the east and west sides. The contemporary Rood-loft stair also survives, built into the south-east corner of the Polhill chapel, and its wooden doors at top and bottom may be original, though much reconstructed. There has also been quite a lot of repair to the screen.

The octagonal font is also probably 15th century, and is of Ragstone covered in small pick marks. This was apparently done so that it could be painted with `imitation grained marble', as described in the earlier 19th century (all now removed). There is a c. 17th century octagonal wooden lid with a finial.

The distinctive brick and knapped flint west tower was apparently rebuilt in about 1775 after a fire. It stands on the site (and foundations) of the earlier tower.

The main and thorough restoration was in 1863-4 by Henry Woodyer, as we have seen. The north-east vestry (now also containing the organ) was also built at this time. The organ is the choir section of Schrider's organ of 1730 for Westminster Abbey, and the pulpit also comes from the Abbey (who own the advowson of the church). It was designed by Blore in 1827, and is a fine early 19th century Gothic piece, but missing its base.

The nave was partially refloored in 1956-7.

BUILDING MATERIALS (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.):
The rubblework for this church is a mixture of local flint, ironstone, and Ragstone with some reused Reigate stone. Later quoins and plinths are in Ragstone, with a few earlier (14th century) jambs of Reigate stone surviving on the north. Tunbridge Wells sandstone was used for the (Later 14th century) buttress quoins and window dressings in the Polhill chapel. The late medieval arcade is also in Reigate stone, as were the original south aisle windows.

Much later repair with red brickwork, and then with heavy knapped flints and Bath-stone.

A fragment of old glass (Pelican in a roundel) in north-west nave window top light.

Several very fine 18th century monuments, listed by Newman in B.O.E. (West Kent and Weald) p.522.

Size & Shape: Very large rectangular area around church (much extended to north)

Condition: Good

Boundary walls: Flint faced and brick wall to east.

Building in churchyard or on boundary: Lychgate on south-west side.

Exceptional monuments: Some good gravestones near church.

Ecological potential: ? Yes - formal avenue of small fastigiate yews south of church and fruit trees etc. to the west. Other yews to the east, etc.

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: 12th century.

Evidence of pre-Norman status (DB, DM, TR etc): Has Otford as a chapel, joined to it.

Late med. status : vicarage.

Patron: The Archbishop (a peculiar in the Deanery of Shoreham) till 1538, then to crown and on to private hands and then to the dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey.

Other documentary sources: Hasted III (1797), 10-13, mentions the `newly erected steeple' of brick and `chancel at the east end'. Test. Cant. (West Kent, 1906), 68.

Previous archaeological work (published): By A D Stoyel, of excavations beneath nave floor (1956-7) and around the base of the west tower (1958) - see op. cit. (below).

Inside present church: Quite good, but with some burial vaults, and some underfloor heating ducts.

Outside present church: ? Good, though the east end of the church seems to have been disturbed at foundation level during restoration work. There is also a large drainage channel around the east end and along the south side.

The church and churchyard: An over-restored church with an unusual late 18th century tower, but containing one of the finest Rood-screen (and lofts) to survive in Kent. Excavation has found the plan of the early Norman nave and chancel (below the present nave), and late 14th; century Lady Chapel survives on the north. The south aisle and arcade were built (or rebuilt) in the late 15th century, along with the fine timber-framed south porch.

The wider context: The almost complete surviving Rood-screen and loft (with associated stair-turret) is a rare survival, of a once common feature.

REFERENCES: Notes by F C Elliston-Erwood, in Arch. Cant. 65 (1952), 144-8 and `Recent discoveries' by A D Stoyel in Arch. Cant. 73 (1959), 216-9l - both with plans. T P Smith `Three medieval timber-framed porches' Arch. Cant. 101 (1984), 137-163.

Guide book: Brief leaflet with rough plan (c. 1990).

Photographs: Rood screen in Kent Churches 1954, 134, with porch as frontispiece.

Plans and drawings: View from south-east in 1799 by Petrie, showing blocked east window with only a `lunette' above, also doorway into south side of Mildmay chapel. Plan by F.C.E.E. on south aisle wall.

DATES VISITED: 25.8.94                                     REPORT BY Tim Tatton-Brown

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